Trial begins of suspected neo-Nazi in Germany

Monday 06 May 2013 22.12
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Beate Zschaepe is accused of being a founder member of neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Underground
Beate Zschaepe is accused of being a founder member of neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Underground
Security in Munich as trial of  Beate Zschaepe, 38, and four others begins
Security in Munich as trial of Beate Zschaepe, 38, and four others begins

A woman who is suspected of being the surviving member of a German neo-Nazi cell has gone on trial  for a series of racist murders.

Beate Zschaepe is accused of being a key member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which had gone undetected for more than a decade.

Zschaepe, 38,  is charged with complicity in the murder of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

She is also charged over two bombings in immigrant areas of Cologne and 15 bank robberies.

"With its historical, social and political dimensions, the NSU trial is one of the most significant of post-war German history," lawyers for the family of the first victim, flower seller Enver Simsek, said in a statement.

Ms Zschaepe, wearing a black jacket and white shirt, chatted with her lawyers before the judges entered, her back turned to the television cameras.

One of four other defendants charged with assisting the NSU hid under a dark hood.

Outside the courthouse, German-Turkish community groups and anti-racism demonstrators held up banners including one that read: "Hitler-child Zschaepe, you will pay for your crimes".

About 500 police officers provided tight security.

Members of the public and media, who lined up before dawn for a chance to attend, even had their hair searched before being allowed in.

The existence of the gang came to light in November 2011 when the two men believed to have founded the NSU with Zschaepe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, committed suicide after a botched bank robbery and set their caravan ablaze.

In the charred vehicle, police found the gun used in all 10 murders and a DVD claiming responsibility for them, in which the bodies of the victims were pictured with a cartoon Pink Panther totting up the number of dead.

After the suicides, Zschaepe is believed to have set fire to a flat she shared with the men in Zwickau, in east Germany.

Four days later, she turned herself in to police in her hometown of Jena, saying: "I'm the one you're looking for."

Hearings are scheduled into early 2014, with Zschaepe's estranged relatives and the parents of Mundlos and Boehnhardt due to testify.

The trial was postponed by a fortnight after an uproar over the court's failure to guarantee Turkish media a seat.